I’m sure I am not the first one to say this, but I haven’t really noticed any extensive discussion of the subject: think about how different the average person’s perspective on income taxes and property taxes would be if, instead of having income taxes withheld from every paycheck and property taxes paid through inclusion with monthly mortgage payments, all taxpayers had to write a check once a year (or even quarterly, as self-employed people do now) for income taxes and once or twice a year (as owners of un-mortgaged properties do now) for property taxes.
It’s an idea that I have thought about before, but it came back to me recently when I learned that in many countries that have a value-added tax, it is actually illegal for providers of goods or services to separate the tax from the price of the goods or services (link is to a Wall Street Journal article that is not accessible directly to non-subscribers). To me, the reason is obvious: there will be much less popular resistance to the tax, and raising the tax will be much easier, when it’s not readily visible to the taxpayer. I’d like to hear a good reason why the tax shouldn’t be readily visible to the taxpayer.
A self-driving car left San Francisco on March 22, planning to reach New York by April 2. You can read about it on the Antiplanner’s web site, and see tweets from the car’s passengers at @DelphiAuto (#delphidrive).
This post provides an interesting look inside the current state of home mortgage financing, from the perspective of a consumer trying to get a loan from a big bank. Of course, it only confirms what we already knew, that the government backing of the home mortgage market has completely taken over the entire process. This story just illustrates the level to which it has advanced.
I have written before about people who, based on less-than-compelling reasons, claimed that they didn’t have to file federal income tax returns or pay income tax. A federal judge recently pointed out to one such individual, in very direct terms, that his revisionist history about the income tax was utterly unconvincing. You can read it in this report from the American Bar Association.
Back in 2005, I wrote about a controversial decision by the U. S. Supreme Court about the limits on government power to take private property for public use.
The case was controversial because it gave the government very expansive power to take property from one private party and sell it to another for purposes of economic development, with economic development being defined very broadly (Loosely, some would say).
Ten years after that case was decided, the property that was taken is still vacant. This post at the Volokh Conspiracy blog has photos of the empty ground where the home of Suzette Kelo, the plaintiff in that U. S. Supreme Court case, once stood, and a shelter for the feral cats that now occupy the site.
WHATEVER THE ISSUES ARE WITH TURBO TAX, THERE’S NO DISPUTING THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHARES THE BLAME FOR TAX REFUND THEFT
The makers of TurboTax brought their recent spate of bad publicity on themselves. When you are selling a product that people are relying on for something as sensitive as filing their tax return, you probably better not do anything that might in any way undermine their trust.
As I said the other day, however, it’s equally obvious that the government is unable to stop people from scamming it by fraudulently claiming tax refunds.
Is it Congress’ fault, because they have failed to address the problem? Or is it the IRS’ fault, because they apparently can’t even shut down a crook who uses the same address on 4,864 individual tax returns?
The Instapundit quoted from and linked to a blog post about freedom of speech that reinforces the point I have made here before: the First Amendment is often misunderstood. I’m not going to link to that blog post. If you want to read it, go to Instapundit and follow his link. The point I want to make is illustrated in this snippet (which was not included in Instapundit’s quote) from that blog post:
Freedom of speech does NOT give you the right to offend, to insult, to disrespect, to oppose human rights, to argue against the common good, to voice approval of totalitarian ideologies, to perpetuate toxic systems of privilege and oppression, to promote ideas which have no place in a modern democratic society, to be provocative or incendiary, or to express opinions which are unacceptable to the majority of people.
If you think that statement is consistent with the First Amendment, you flunk American Government 101. The dead giveaways should be the author’s suggestion that it’s ok to ban “ideas which have no place in a modern democratic society” and “opinions which are unacceptable to a majority of people.”
Ideas which have no place in a modern democratic society? You mean like the ideas of the American Nazi Party, whose right to march in Skokie was upheld by a unanimous decision of the U. S. Supreme Court?
Opinions which are unacceptable to a majority of people? You mean any opinion that will get less than 50% support in a poll, such as that Elvis isn’t dead? Is that an opinion that is unacceptable to a majority of people, or just one that a majority of people disagree with? Is there a difference? If so, who gets to decide which is which?
According to the Government Accountability Office, improper payments under the earned income tax credit (EITC) in fiscal year 2014 totaled $17.7 billion. What’s more, improper payments amounted to 27.7% of the total payments made under the program. In other words, more than one out of every four EITC payments went to someone who shouldn’t have received it.
As I pointed out way back in 2012, the filing of false tax returns using stolen identities for the purpose of obtaining fraudulent refunds (most of which undoubtedly claim payments under the EITC) is a huge problem.
Protecting itself from scammers is a problem that the IRS, or the federal government more generally, seems incapable of fixing.
I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THERE MAY BE A DOWNSIDE TO RELAXED HOME MORTGAGE LENDING REQUIREMENTS
In my February newsletter I discussed the lowering of the down payment requirement for home mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I questioned the impetus for that change and what it might mean for the housing market.
Now at least one government watchdog is questioning similar moves by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The issue with the FHA isn’t just lower down payment requirements. It’s also lower premiums for mortgage insurance, the result of which has been serious questions about the solvency of the FHA’s insurance program, and serious cost to taxpayers.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.